Field Quarter: it’s life-changing

Students in UCSC's Natural History Field Quarter class key plants during fieldwork in the Mojave Desert in spring 2013.
Students in UCSC’s Natural History Field Quarter class key plants during fieldwork in the Mojave Desert in spring 2013.

In 1973, a group of UC Santa Cruz undergraduates filed into vans and headed for the Mojave Desert. Led by Kenneth S. Norris, founder of the UC Natural Reserve System and the University’s first professor of natural history, they would spend the next dozen weeks traveling to wild places across California. The lessons they learned from Natural History Field Quarter–to observe ecological patterns, read the geological underpinnings of the land, and develop a bone-deep connection to the environment around them–would become touchstones for the rest of their lives.

With a 40-plus-year track record of bringing students to Landels-Hill Big Creek, Sweeney Granite Mountains, Angelo Coast Range, and other reserves, Natural History Field Quarter exemplifies the value of environmental learning.

Natural History Field Quarter students and alumni speak of the impact outdoor learning in natural places has had on their lives.

Now, a $2 million gift from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation will continue the field quarter’s legacy of immersive, field-based education. The gift, announced March 31, will ensure the Natural History Field Quarter course will continue to be taught into the future, as well as endow the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History to expand the UCSC Museum of Natural History Collections. The center will include a library, meeting space, specimen collections, and will support hands-on internships and field activities for undergraduates. It’s enough to make anyone want to dance the Hokey Pokey–a longstanding Field Quarter tradition–to celebrate.

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$2 million gift supports natural history fieldwork at UC Santa Cruz
UC Santa Cruz Newscenter